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Wednesday
Jul142010

material world: acrylic

Formulated in the mid-1800’s, acrylic has evoked modernity since it was first commercially developed in the early 1900’s.

Scientifically, clear acrylic is a generic term for PMMA—synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate; while Lucite®—MMA—is trademarked. The key difference is at the chemical, base level and is apparent in how both are best used. Acrylic is usually formed into sheets while Lucite® is typically hand-cast, almost crystal clear, often deliberately made with inclusions.

Swatch store door handle, Milanphoto by: ellenm1In the 20’s and 30’s, new materials and technologies were exploited and stream- lined Art Deco designs were the perfect form as modern- ism exploded on the scene.

First marketed in 1936, it’s been used in many places for many items—but none more than replacing glass for safety reasons.

Having few reactions with human tissue, specifically in and around the eyes, splinters from acrylic sheets were far less harmful if impacted. This realization opened the door to over-sized sheeting for public aquariums and guards around ice hockey rinks—not to mention contact lenses and safer shields for helmets and airplanes. Remember the war-time montage from It’s a Wonderful Life when “Sam Wainwright made a fortune in plastic hoods for planes.”?

photo by: pablo sanchezphoto by: karen horten


The terms acrylic, Lucite®, plexi-glass, are often used interchangeably with clear resin recently added to the group as technology evolves.

Starting around 1957-75—around the time of the space race and disco days—‘ultra-modern’ goods were revived and further developed as home furnishings. In the past few years, acrylic and Lucite® have gained favor in women’s fashions—especially in shoe heels this year.

Besides chrome, few materials have an undeniable and unmistakable air of modernity as acrylic. Its streamlined nature is perfectly married to sleek profiles—which open the imagination to multi-uses in a variety of spaces.

For small spaces, acrylic peekaboo and format collections are must-haves with their nominal visual weight—not to mention a “goes anywhere, goes with anything” attitude.

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Reader Comments (3)

Great post! I've already wondered what the difference between Lucite and acrylic was. I LOVE all of the Peekaboo stuff...esp the console table!

July 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKyle Knight

amazing art

October 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrowlind

One thing to keep in mind with all clear "plastics" ... while vastly improved and tougher in more recent times, their surfaces are still "soft" as compared to glass, etc. Accordingly, over time (unless you are extremely careful) they will have a tendency to scratch / become somewhat cloudy from normal day to day use. For this reason (and I like the Peekaboo line as well) I am guarded with regard to using such items (particularly the desk) as a functional furniture piece.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBill

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